OV study finds salaries fall below market comparison

Charles Hendricks of Hendricks and Associates Inc. this week presented the Ocean View Town Council with his firm’s completed classification and compensation study for town employees.

Hendricks he said found the Town to be below market midpoints, after comparing the Town’s employee salaries to various other towns, including Lewes, Rehoboth, Bethany, Dewey, Millsboro and Delmar, as well as to Atlantic General Hospital.

The study included having employees fill out individual questionnaires and interviews with town management, as well as a survey of salaries and benefits.

He noted that the Town’s salaries are below market midpoints and suggested the Town should look into switching to a 14-grade salary structure, calling it a “fairly effective system.”

“The Town does not have salary ranges which are normally found in larger governments,” he said, noting that currently the Town’s highest salary is $59,844 per year, compared to the maximum salary surveyed at $95,750, with a midpoint of $77,797.

An employee’s “grade” would be determined based on various factors, including job complexity, education and work experience, supervision received and physical demands — all of which would be weighed differently.

Hendricks said the open range pay plan would have a minimum and maximum range to move employees through, where their pay would be a certain percentage of their midpoint, depending on their grade level.

“Most of your employees are below midpoint at this point,” he said. “The objective is over time to move them toward the midpoint.”

Hendricks suggested that the Town implement a plan to bring the employees’ salaries to the midpoint by increasing payroll by a small percentage.

“If you use 1 percent of payroll — which is a fairly small amount — to raise salaries of employees who fall below range minimums, it’s a start. More realistically, you spend 2 to 3 percent of market midpoint salaries to ensure that town salaries remain competitive.”

He added that it would be a big step for the Town but that he believed it would be beneficial in the long run.

“I think this is really a big step for this town, because you haven’t had ranges before. There are a lot of things to consider. I think you should go through this cautiously,” said Hendricks. “What you have now is a goal, a target, where to get to, and you’re going to be pushing the people as fast as you can afford to, moving them forward. You’re in no different situation than any other municipality.”

The council agreed that Town Manager Dianne Vogel and the Town’s department heads would discuss the best course of action in distribution and bring it before council at a later date.

“I think we should approve the overall package amount and then leave its distribution to their discretion,” said Councilman Bob Lawless.

Mayor Gordon Wood introduced a resolution stating that, following the first council action regarding the salary study, changes shall be made effective on the first day of the first pay period starting after Sept. 1, 2012.

“By all aspects of the salary study, this should not result in our employees having any salary adjustments delayed. This puts the council on record that any salary adjustments that come out of it will be effective on the first day of the first pay period,” explained Wood.

The council unanimously approved the resolution.

Wood also raised the issue of the Castaways Bethany development that has been proposed to be built on Cedar Neck Road. He said that he had received letters from people opposed to the development who have Ocean View addresses but who live outside of the town limits.

“I was troubled when I saw this on the agenda,” said Lawless. “The folks who are concerned about this are not residents of our town. I strongly suggest we stay out of this one. It is a county issue… Let’s stay out of it.”

“I agree. I have no desire to get involved,” added Councilwoman Michele Steffens.

Councilman Tom Sheeran said that, although it would not affect the town at this point in time, later on in the town’s expansion, they may eventually consider annexation of the development or other surrounding areas.

“At some point in the future — meaning the very far future — perhaps some future council would want to enlarge. Maybe we should not be involved in it, but it requires some discussion.”

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader presented all council members with copies of the public hearing record for the application to the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission and a report from the Office of State Planning & Coordination, as well as a report by various agencies regarding the proposed project.

“I hope I’ve given you some documentation that this is more complex than what can be said in one letter,” Schrader said. “There’s no historical precedent for this Town to comment on an application outside of this municipality, nor have we invited our neighbors to comment on our applications as we process it. I’m not sure this is something we want to get into.”

The council agreed not to take a position on the proposed development.

Ocean View Historical Society President Diane Dee spoke to the council this week regarding the possible use of town hall for a traveling Smithsonian exhibit. The exhibit would consist of five kiosks and would require 600 square feet of display space.

Dee said that historical societies and organizations in the towns of Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island and Ocean View would work together to sponsor the exhibit, which would feature workers telling their own stories — one of which would highlight the poultry industry.

Dee said that the exhibit would be open for regular hours and would be worked by docents from the participating towns, and that the society would be applying for a grant from the Delaware Humanities Forum to help cover advertisement costs.

Wood suggested that Dee and Vogel work out the details by the end of the month to help decide if Ocean View’s town hall would be an appropriate space for the exhibit.

In other town news:

• Wood formally recognized and welcomed Vogel, who has been working for the town for a little over two weeks.

• The council held the first public hearing regarding designating walking areas for domesticated animals in public parks.

“A lot of times, I hear people walking in Ocean View, they’re out on the streets with their dogs,” said Wood. “It would allow regulations, which could be … rescinded at some time in the future. The agenda is to allow people to walk their dogs in the northern part of the [John West] park — not by the playground area where children play.”

No public comments were made. A second reading will be held at the council’s October meeting, with a vote possibly to follow.

• The council held the first public hearing for an ordinance that would waive application fees for the Ocean View Historical Society’s work on what is planned as a future Coastal Towns museum. Wood said that, because the society is improving property that the Town owns, the Town should waive the fees. No public comments were made. A second reading is scheduled for the October meeting, to possibly be followed by a vote.

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance to amend the personnel policy relating to nepotism. The ordinance, which follows the state’s public integrity act, prohibits members of the same immediate family from being considered for vacant positions within the same department where a family member is already employed or is the department supervisor. The prohibition includes an employee’s spouse, parent, child (natural or adopted) and full or half-siblings. The policy will apply to the mayor and council members, as well.

• The council authorized Lawless to write a letter to Millville regarding a fire siren residing in Ocean View, following town officials receiving a few complaints about the siren sounding during the evening hours.

• Board of Adjustment Member Gene Brendel’s term on the board was extended through May of 2015.

• Ocean View Police Department will participate with National Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• The Town was presented with a report on the yearly audit, conducted by Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner PA. Auditor Jean Schmidt reviewed the report with council, noting that the revenues that came in were greater than budgeted, and that the Town also spent less money than it had budgeted.

• The Town plans to hold a commissioning ceremony for the solar array carport at the municipal building on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 10:30 a.m. The Town has invited U.S. Sens. Carper and Coons, as well as DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara.

• Resident Jim Carr requested that the council look into the drainage pipes in Country Village. Carr said that the pipes have been clogged up with silt. He requested that the Town look into the problem. Wood said that Public Works Supervisor Charlie McMullen and Vogel would inspect the drain and give a recommendation to council.

“I think, eventually, we have to, as a town, get a handle on all the drainage in our town,” added Lawless, “what ditches exist, who’s responsible for them… what easements are necessary, how do we go about getting them… we really ought to get a handle on the scope of the problem and a systematic approach to handling it.”

• Trick-or-treating will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.

• The Town will celebrate Arbor Day on April 26 and is encouraging all citizens to celebrate, protect and recognize the importance of trees.

• The council approved the Town entering into a memorandum of understanding with the State Fire Marshal’s Office that would allow the office to review and ensure that commercial structures are in compliance and constructed to their satisfaction.

• Cody Lockwood of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company attended the meeting and thanked council for their grant award earlier in the year, which allowed the company to purchase new air packs.

“They are the best you can possibly get right now,” he said of the packs. “We could not have done this without the Town’s support and grant.”

“Thank you and all your colleagues for all you do,” responded Wood. “These are the people who run into burning buildings. Hopefully, they won’t have to save someone’s life, but if they have to, they have the best equipment to do so.”

• Ocean View Historical Society will be sponsoring a free lecture on the Civil War, focusing on Delaware, given by local historian Tom Ryan. The presentation will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in town hall.